Why The Hell Did I Move To Bangkok?
According to the hardened, wise and experienced old hands that contribute to this forum, Thailand is not the place to be anymore. The economic crisis has hit the people hard; tourists are afraid or unable to spend their disposable income on that Thailand beach holiday, or that Pattaya sex crawl. The political crisis is an on-going de-stabilizer; tourists are afraid of being held hostage at the airport or caught up in a riot. The people hit hardest by this are those who benefit from the tourist baht. These people are getting desperate and crimes against foreigners have increased dramatically. People are stealing and scamming like never before and smiles are disappearing on both sides. Ex-pats are leaving the country and veteran lovers of the Land of Smiles refuse to recommend it as a place to visit. Thailand is on the decline and the consensus is that it is not going to recover quickly, if at all.
So why the hell did I move to Bangkok a month ago? Stickman warned me against it, as did thirty-year Bangkok veteran, Marc Holt. I ignored their advice. I have read the many submissions on the decline of Thailand with great interest and so I have ignored more advice. Ignored is probably the wrong word as I have done a lot of reading and research, I have consulted people, soul searched, and re-examined my reasoning constantly. I have not decided blindly. The result? A month ago I moved to Bangkok and I am currently starting my own consultancy company from scratch. Am I crazy? Or just plain stupid? While it may well be an act of insanity, the thesis of this submission, dear readers, is that it is all just a matter of perspective.
The first thing that should be examined therefore, is my perspective. This perspective is derived from both my personality and from my past experiences. I instantly recognize that through my experiences I have a personality that is definitely not risk adverse. I very deliberately moved to the Middle East at the height of the “War on Terror” just to see what it was like. At this point I give you permission to mark me as insane and discontinue reading. After I discovered that what the media was saying about Middle Eastern Muslims was a complete load of shit, I moved to China to witness a revolution in construction and a shift in collective consciousness that might never be replicated. Got bored of that after four years and decided that Bangkok was the place to be to get a front row view of fecal matter hitting fans.
I’m not afraid of dying and I don’t have a wife and children to worry about. It is easy for me to get up on my soapbox. This essay is about perspectives remember. I have moved to Bangkok and I have little to lose besides my physical well-being, but that is at risk in a million ways regardless of where I am. I never really liked Bangkok much anyway; it was just a gateway to the beaches for me. I have no “Golden Years” to reminisce about. Bangkok hasn’t lost its appeal because it never had a hold over me. I started coming here as a back-packer and therefore Khao San road was the center of the universe when in Bangkok. I grew out of that and moved onto the 4/5 star experience as a tourist for about 12 weeks a year. I have seen the good and the bad on my many visits here and when left with total freedom of choice to do whatever I wanted with my life, I chose the familiarity of Thailand. It has always attracted me and always fascinated me. I am an observer and I can’t think of anywhere better right now to be observational.
I am in full agreement with what is being said about the decline of Thailand right now. I agree that things have gone from bad to worse over the past year. I agree that the Thai mentality in relation to money is their fatal flaw. This attitude is catching up with Thailand at long last and I don’t say this smugly, but as an observation. The rip-offs are coming back to haunt them. People are simply no longer choosing Thailand. So what is the result going to be? Carnage? Catastrophe? Death for all foreigners? Or will the Thais turn things around? Some people might say I am naïve but I see challenges as opportunities and I sincerely hope that Thailand rises to the challenge. Maybe Thailand will be forced to either change its approach to tourism (I think the fat cat got too complacent) or work towards being more economically independent of tourism.
The more pessimistic will scoff at this suggestion and tell me that Thailand can’t change and won’t change and if I stick around I am putting myself in the line of fire. This is where that nasty little word “fear” comes into the equation. In the West we have been raised on a diet of media driven apocalyptic fear. We are all told that we are waiting to that cataclysmic day to arrive – and it will arrive; it is inevitable. We are waiting for the cyclone, the flash flood, the nuclear accident, the nuclear attack, the terrorist’s bomb, airborne disease (Flying Pig Flu), the immigrant taking your job, or worst of all, GOD sending you to hell for shagging an Isaan hottie twice on a Sunday. Be afraid.
I am not suggesting that the people denigrating Thailand as a place to visit or live are fear-mongering. I am suggesting that as a part of our cultural baggage we have a tendency to fear the worst. When we are afraid it is fight or flight. So what is my point? Try not to be afraid. All things being equal (and I accept they are unequal at times in LOS) we will wake up in the morning, roll over in the hope of a dawn-breaker, get up, suck down what ever morning potion gets us going, shit, shave, shower and get on with the day. What is the worst that can happen that can’t possibly happen anywhere else? Some people are unfortunate enough that they no longer fear much at all. When your greatest fears have already been realized it is easy to let them go. You can’t lose something you have already lost, right? And fear is fear of loss. You can’t lose when you fear no loss.
So what are people afraid of in Thailand? So afraid that they will leave a beautiful land that is populated by an over-whelming majority of kind, good-hearted, down to earth, loving, happy people. I don’t think it is physical fear. I think it is the acceptance that perspectives have changed on both sides. To the foreigner, Thailand is not what it once was. Things have changed in the political and economic environments and the knock-on effects to date have been largely negative. The fascination for me is what will happen next? Will Thailand continue to decline or will it bounce back.
When I was a kid I remember people of older generations saying that New Zealand “was goin’ to the dogs.” From their perspective maybe it was and has. It is a warped little world down there but the sun still rises every day and people are generally happy and functional. Is it as good as it once was? To some, yes, to others, no. Is Bangkok as good as it once was? Probably not but it depends on what you have experienced in the past and what you are here to do. Do I have a clear sense of perspective on living in Bangkok? Not a fully developed one but I’m getting one that is for sure. And it is mine alone. I don’t have any halcyon days to reflect upon. I can only reflect upon what I observe and there is a blessing in that. I left China because I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I once did. Not the fault of the country and its people – they are doing their own thing. I was the outsider and my perspective changed. That is all. There were certainly things going on there that I did not like, but I didn’t blame my decision to leave on these things and warn others not to go there. It is what it is and I am who I am. We don’t necessarily have to be bound together forever. I operate independently. So does China and so does Thailand.
Maybe I’m like one of those ghoulish people who avidly stares at the aftermath of a car wreck. I hope Thailand doesn’t become that wreck, but if it does, I’ll be here to witness it first-hand. Wish me luck.
There is no doubt in my mind that we are in for interesting times in Thailand and that it is, in many ways, a great time to have a ringside seat. For those with no encumbrances and those who like to chronicle life in the Kingdom, these are fascinating days indeed!